Published October 26, 2008
This November, many judges across Illinois will find their names on election ballots. Voters will decide if the judges get to keep their jobs. Once elected, an Illinois judge never has to run against an opponent again — at the end of a term, the judge merely needs to convince enough voters to let the judge keep his or her job for another term.
What is the authority for this? It is the Illinois Constitution.
Article VI, Section 12, Subsection (d) states, in part, as follows:
The names of Judges seeking retention shall be submitted to the electors, separately and without party designation, on the sole question whether each Judge shall be retained in office for another term. The retention elections shall be conducted at general elections in the appropriate Judicial District, for Supreme and Appellate Judges, and in the circuit for Circuit Judges. The affirmative vote of three-fifths of the electors voting on the question shall elect the Judge to the office for a term commencing on the first Monday in December following his election.
How long are the terms for judges? Article VI, Section 10 says terms are ten years for all appellate court judges (including judges on the Illinois Supreme Court) and six years for circuit judges. Circuit judges are the trial judges in local courthouses.
Now that you know that judges will appear on your election ballot, you will undoubtedly want to make an informed vote. The Illinois State Bar Association has published judicial evaluations on its website to help you do this. Click here to view the evaluations.
Published October 24, 2008
Have you seen this criminal? He recently entered the home of an 85-year-old man where he destroyed the man’s personal property. A law enforcement official attempted to apprehend the subject with a Taser, but it did not work on him. The subject is considered to be dangerous but unarmed. If you see him, immediately call your local law enforcement agency.
For more information, click here to read an Associated Press story about the incident.
Published October 21, 2008
“Speaking and teaching are the master’s task; the disciple is to be silent and listen.” — The Rule of St. Benedict in English, Chapter 6
I am a simple guy. When I speak, I typically say few words. When I write, I am usually succinct. And that’s OK. It gives me more time to see what Bennett, Greenfield, Katz, Spence and a whole host of others have to say.
Published October 16, 2008
Yesterday afternoon, I was at the courthouse in Coles County for an arraignment in a misdemeanor case. Before I got to the courtroom I needed to be in, a man approached me and asked if he could have more time to pay his court fines. He thought I was a prosecutor. His mistake was a reasonable one: I was a prosecutor up until May of this year and I had previously been in court many times for the State when this person’s cases had been up. This encounter made me think about some other encounters I have had with defendants. For your pleasure, I will include two other stories in this post.
Your Face Looks Familiar
A few weeks ago I went to a bowling alley with some friends. We went there to kill some time between a wedding and a reception. We were in the bar area throwing darts and the only other people in there were three guys who were more than a few sheets in the wind. The guys were obnoxious — they kept trying to hang out with us and buy alcohol for us. One of the guys looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him. I finally asked him where I knew him from. He said that I was his attorney. He wasn’t a client of mine, so I knew that I must have been his prosecutor at some point in time. He confirmed this when I followed up by asking him what he meant when he said that I was his attorney. At the end of my conversation with him, he said something to the effect that he was glad that I drink in bars. I smiled and changed the topic. I am a complete non-drinker. I am not against drinking, but I, myself, don’t drink.
When I was still a prosecutor, I was at a restaurant in Mattoon. I received terrible service from the waiter. The waiter looked familiar to me, but like the person in the previous story, I couldn’t place him. During the next misdemeanor cattle call I handled, the waiter was one of many people who had cases called that day. I now could place him. I wonder if he remembered me long before I remembered him and that is why I received terrible service from him?
Published October 11, 2008
Judici, the entity that puts case information online for Coles County and 49 other Illinois counties, recently came out with a nifty new feature that makes it easy to monitor a case. Judici calls the feature Judici Case Watch. A user of Judici Case Watch will get an e-mail from Judici whenever a court uploads new information about a case the user is monitoring. It costs $2.99 to subscribe to a case.
Subscribing to a case is easy. First, search for a case you are looking for. Second, click on the case number and then look for the following graphic.
When you find the graphic, click on it and then complete the checkout process. It’s that easy.
Now, who would be interested in this feature? Off the top of my head, I think it would be useful to defendants, their family members, and victims. For example, if a defendant uses this service, he will know when his attorney or the prosecution files a motion or other court document. If family members use this service, they will be notified of the defendant’s next court date. If a victim subscribes to the service, she will know when the case resolves and what the resolution is.
Post Updated: 3/20/09
Published October 6, 2008
Did you know that Illinois speed demons can go to jail? It’s true … if the speed demons go fast enough. If you don’t believe me, read the law for yourself. The Illinois Compiled Statutes (625 ILCS 5/11-601.5) state:
A person who drives a vehicle upon any highway of this State at a speed that is 40 miles per hour or more in excess of the applicable maximum speed limit established under this Chapter or a local ordinance commits a Class A misdemeanor.
If you receive a conviction for a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois, the maximum jail sentence you can receive is 364 days.
Published October 1, 2008
If you are charged with a crime and can’t afford to hire a lawyer, then you should ask that a public defender be appointed to represent you. Below you will find step-by-step instructions for how to do this in Coles County. The procedure may be different in your county and the best default advice I can give you is that on the date of your first court appearance you should arrive at the courthouse early and speak to a bailiff. The bailiff will let you know what you need to do in order to request a public defender.
- Go to court. You will not be able to get a public defender prior to your first court appearance. Your bond sheet, ticket, or summons will have a court date on it. Go to court on that date and find the courtroom your case will be heard in. If you need help finding your courtroom, ask a courthouse security officer on your way in. You will know you are in the right courtroom if your name (and case number) is posted on the door of the courtroom.
- Locate the bailiff. The bailiff in your courtroom will give you an affidavit you will need to complete if you want the judge to consider your request for the public defender. The bailiff will be wearing a jacket, tie, and a bailiff’s badge. A courthouse security officer may also be serving as a bailiff. These are uniformed police officers.
- Fill out the affidavit. Fill out the affidavit as completely as you are able to and then sign it. The affidavit will have blanks for various personal and financial information. The amount of money you earn each month is a key piece of information that the prosecutor and judge will want to know. Coles County doesn’t place its court forms online, but Cook County does. Click here (.pdf) to see a Cook County form that is similar to the form you will fill out in Coles County.
- Return the affidavit to the bailiff. The bailiff will give the affidavit to the prosecutor to review and then either the prosecutor or the bailiff will give the affidavit to the judge when your case is called. If the prosecutor thinks that you make too much money and that you should not receive the public defender, the prosecutor will object to you receiving the public defender.
- Go to the defendant’s table when your case is called. This will be the empty table next to the table where the prosecutor is seated. The judge will review your affidavit and ask you questions about the affidavit if he or she has any. The judge will then appoint the public defender if he or she thinks you qualify for the public defender.
- Receive the public defender. If the public defender is present in the courtroom, he or she will join you at the table. If the public defender is not present, then the Court will give you the public defender’s contact information and send the public defender notice that you are his or her client.